Panama’s President-Elect Wants to Close the Darien Jungle Route and Deport the Migrants

In 2023, 520,000 people crossed the Darién jungle, including many Cubans

Between January and February 2024, 328 complaints of sexual violence were registered in the Darién / EFE

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 May 2024 — The president-elect of Panama, José Raúl Mulino, who will assume the office in July, promises to “end the Darién odyssey.” During his proclamation, he said that the Darién jungle route between Colombia and Panama, through which more than 70,000 migrants have already crossed in 2024 on their journey to the United States, “has no reason to exist.”

More than 520,000 migrants crossed the Darien jungle in 2023 . The most frequent nationalities to cross were Venezuelans (328,667); Ecuadorians (57,222); Haitians (46,558); and Chinese (25,344), according to data from the Panamanian Ministry of Public Security.

An agent from the National Border Service (Senafront) of Panama controls migrants waiting to be registered with immigration agents after crossing the Darién / EFE

There is no precise data on how many people die in this jungle, where travelers face the wild environment and also criminal groups that commit assaults and rapes. According to reports offered by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders, violence has increased significantly in recent months. Between January and February 2024, 328 reports of sexual violence were registered, compared to 676 reports in all of 2023.

The Panamanian authorities generally maintain a harsh discourse against migration, noting that on the Colombian side control is held by the criminal group of the Clan del Golfo, which in 2023 received about 68 million dollars for the passage of migrants, in addition to other gangs that rob and attack those who pass by.

At the beginning of May, Panama’s Director of Immigration, Samira Gozaine, told EFE: “There are stories from people who say that mothers drown their children in the river because it is difficult to carry them (…) they abandon them to their luck.”

Panama’s president-elect, José Raúl Mulino, says that the Darién “is not a transit route” / EFE

“What you are experiencing is total hell,” says Venezuelan Luisannys Mundaraín, 22, but the crisis in Venezuela gave her no other option, with 12-hour days in a supermarket for $20 a week.

The announcement by the Panamanian president-elect about the closure of the Darién caused discomfort. “Such a decision could trigger a significant congestion of migrants in our territory,” said the office of the Mayor of Necoclí, Colombia, speaking to the Reuters agency.

In regions such as Necoclí, Turbo and Acandí, the migratory exodus has become a transportation business. The New York Times denounced the business in Colombia. Migrants pay $40 for a boat ride to reach the tropical forest.

“A guide who takes you along the dangerous route when you start walking: $170. Someone to carry your backpack on muddy hills: 100 dollars. A plate of chicken and rice after a day of laborious climbing: $10. Special all-inclusive packages to make the risky effort faster and more bearable (with tents, boots and other basics): $500, or more,” the New York newspaper published in 2023.


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